Saturday, 9 November 2013

Review: Allegiant by Veronica Roth *CONTAINS SPOILERS*

Allegiant (Divergent #3) by Veronica Roth
Publisher: HarperCollins
Released: October 22nd 2013
My Rating: 1.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
*Note: I own the international paperback version of this book, but am reviewing the UK release

One choice will define you.

What if your whole world was a lie?
What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.
(from Goodreads)

SPOILER WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS. MANY MANY SPOILERS. I've warned you, so don't blame me if you still decide to read this and then find out something you didn't want to. BUT, as well as containing spoilers for Allegiant, this book ALSO CONTAINS SPOILERS about Ptolemy's Gate, the last book in Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus trilogy. So if you don't want to be spoiled about that either, THEN DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW. Honestly. It's over 2500 words long. That's a lot of damn spoilers.

Note: I really do apologise for the length of this review. I just had a lot to say...

I can't believe I'm saying this, but Allegiant was so...boring. It was like the writing style changed completely at times. Honestly, it was so dull at points that I almost gave up. The ending was unfortunately spoiled for me (thanks a lot for that, internet), so I went in expecting loads of crazy things to be happening that would lead up to that moment. But it was so boring! I mean, things DID happen, but it just wasn't exciting. The writing that pulled me in so much in Divergent was just gone. Instead of being sucked into the story and losing myself in it, I was very aware that I was reading a book. I kept thinking, "How many more pages until this chapter ends?" I honestly don't know what happened. And while I admit I did not like the ending AT ALL, that is definitely not the only reason I didn't enjoy this book.

First of all, it took ages for anything to actually happen. There were a few things - like the deaths of Edward and Tori (which were just completely brushed over and forgotten)  - but they didn't reveal or explain anything. It did get slightly better later on and become more engaging towards the end, but it was nothing compared to Divergent or Allegiant. Second of all, the dual POV just failed. The voices were so similar that even though different things were happening, I always forgot who I was reading about. I would think, "Wait, why is Tris saying that, it makes no sense..." (or vice versa) before remembering that I was actually reading Four's chapter. Their chapters basically blurred together, making the dual POV pretty pointless - we really only needed it so Four could talk after Tris died. And Four's chapters were a bit eh. I used to love his character, but he seemed to have suffered some kind of personality alteration in this book. Gone was the Four of the past, the confident, intelligent leader - in Allegiant, he basically became a gullible idiot who couldn't deal with problems and needed Tris to tell him what to do. I hated seeing that and I didn't like that Tris was portrayed as virtually flawless. When Uriah died (I LOVED Uriah, he was one of my favourites in books one and two), Four barely reacted because he was so upset about Tris. While I get that, I would have liked Uriah's death to have been more of a serious matter to him, and to the readers in general. Can't help but feel it was a little glossed over.

Another stupid thing was the whole "genetics" explanation. It was so half-assed! I mean, really. There was potential, but it was so poorly explained that I almost laughed. And it also made me realise how ridiculous that NO-ONE, in any faction, had decided to find out what was outside the fence way before this, and tell everyone. So basically, the whole thing was an experiment and the factions were built so that "genetically damaged" (there's a whole reason for WHY they became "genetically damaged" but I can't be bothered to explain and it makes little sense anyway) would flourish in the environment and produce more Divergents, who were "genetically healed". What a bunch of pseudoscience bullshit. Seriously, I would have liked at least some explanation about what "genetically damaged" meant apart from the people who were "genetically damaged" were missing key traits like compassion, motivation blah blah blah. First of all, how EXACTLY did the experiments cause genetic damage? WHAT genes were damaged? HOW did they affect people and WHY were different people damaged in different ways? Why did this damage make them unable to live in ordinary society - why so much prejudice? Why couldn't it be immediately fixed by more genetic alteration - why did it take generations for healed genes to manifest?! That made no sense and we were offered no explanation! It they could be ALTERED in one generation, why would healed genes have to MANIFEST in next generations? Couldn't they just alter them again to reverse what they did? And what did "genetically healed" even mean? HOW did they heal? Did they just need time? Variety in reproduction? What CAUSED genetic healing, and why? Why were only some people Divergent and others still damaged? You can't just come up with terms and then expect readers to blindly go along with them - explanation is vital. I don't exactly have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to science, but I expect something at least believable. And I also found it hard to believe that in such a developed society, people would turn on each other for having different genetics - you think the whole "hating people because they're different" thing wouldn't be so prevalent that far in the future.

And then we come to the ending. Just what. I will admit it - I hated it. And not just because it wasn't a happy ending - because it was actually the opposite of the "realistic" ending it was so desperately trying to be. Tris dying was just...unnecessary. Are you telling me all the sacrificing she did in books one and two STILL weren't enough, that she had to die in this book for such a stupid reason? Her death didn't really even save anyone. I mean, it prevented people's memories being erased, but they could have prevented it by other means! They could have inoculated everyone against memory serum - dump it in the water supply or something. Or they could have quietly evacuated. There were loads of alternatives, so Tris's death was ultimately just meaningless, especially since she had already helped to start resolving the other problems going on. It didn't do anything except make me want to throw the book across the room. Don't even get me STARTED on the epilogue.

I completely understand not going down the "happily ever after". That's perfectly fine. I like bittersweet and sad endings most of the time. And had Tris's death actually been worth something - had it actually mattered - then okay. But it didn't. It really didn't. It felt like it was done just for shock value so that it could seem like it was such a great and original ending - and it wasn't done well at all. And for everyone saying "at least she wasn't afraid to do something different" - you really think killing off main characters is "different"? Do you seriously read books? Or watch films? Or TV? Or generally engage in the world? I'm not just angry that Tris died, I'm angry because she really didn't need to. And because it was so stupid that she managed to survive the death serum and then got killed by a bullet. I mean, really? WHY? The cruel irony was that Tris finally figured out that she wanted to live, that she didn't want to die - and then ended up dying, trying to protect CALEB, of all people, who was willing to sacrifice himself - and should have done so, because it would have been his ONLY redeeming action. Even Four dying would have made more sense - he was not as selfless or brave as Tris and in this book it was clear he felt a little bit worthless and insecure - a sacrifice from him could have been his final character development. And I am saying this as a person who LOVED Four in books one and two. I almost would have preferred if both of them died! But this was just so ugh. You know what was a book with a brilliant ending where a main character died? Ptolemy's Gate. I cried and cried for days after that. I never wanted to look at the book again. But deep down from the moment I read that last page, I accepted that's how the ending had to be. It was actually the best way for it. And all was not lost, because we still had Bartimaeus and he would never forget Nathaniel, just as we never would. It wasn't dressed up as some greatly meaningful or symbolic pretentious crap - it was what it was. Someone died to save others. They weren't even that nice of a person - which made their sacrifice all the more special. Tris, however, was already willing to sacrifice herself. She had shown it time and time again. And you know what? When someone who is so willing to give up their life to save people actually dies, it's boring. It's not "meaningful" or "symbolic". I HATE it when authors try to make things seem so deep as if great philosophers of the world could spend hours pondering over it. It's not meaningful. This book was not meaningful, it was just sad and stupid and pitiful and I just felt sorry for the characters and myself for investing so much time and money and energy into the series. Having a main character die just for the sake of it is not the "ultimate sacrifice"(pretty sure VR mentioned this in an interview somewhere saying Harry should have died because it would have been the ultimate sacrifice - though I can't FIND the interview, so don't take my word for it. My thoughts on the topic are the same though). It is not a "meaningful" ending or way to honour a character. There are things far worse than death - dying for a cause is something people have done over and over again - how could it ever be the "ultimate" anything? There is no glory in death and people shouldn't pretend there is. And if anything, having your character die, a character who is a clear leader, who is NEEDED to help the world be a better place after all the chaos is over, after just having solved a kind of minor problem isn't really brave at all - sticking around for the aftermath and trying to navigate a new world - now that's brave.

The worst thing, though, was the epilogue. It was trying so hard to make it seem like Tris's death actually meant something. It was a failed attempt at looking back on memories and also looking towards the future in a (yet again) "meaningful" way to give closure. All that epilogue did was make me mad. Because yes, you know what? Some memories do fade. But after just reading about a tragic death which was poorly and needlessly executed, that's not exactly something I want to hear about. How much emotion do you want to pile on me? Should there not be balance? Am I supposed to feel miserable for seven years after finishing this book? I WANTED Four to miss Tris, because I missed her. For me, it was not two years later. I didn't have that time to grieve and learn to move on. They had supposedly won, but this didn't feel like a victory. It was bleak and depressing and nothing else. I get that bad things have to happen - but in the end, isn't it to create a better, happier world? In Allegiant, bad things happened, and then more bad things happened, then more, then more. I cried A LOT after finishing Ptolemy's Gate, but Allegiant just made me angry and frustrated and I just want to start a fire so I can burn it to a crisp and never think of it again. 

Don't get me wrong. Ptolemy's Gate was not a perfect book and I will most likely never read it again. But at least it wasn't pretending to be something it wasn't. The way the characters were written made it seem like it could end in any way. I felt like, even though we spent a lot of time getting to know Nathaniel, it was worth it, despite the fact he died. Allegiant didn't feel that way at all. I just felt it was utterly pointless for us to get to know Tris, to invoke hope in us, build up such a developed relationship with Four, all to have it end that way. What was the point in all that time and effort spent? In this series, we actually saw and felt everything from Tris's POV (whereas PG was not from Nathaniel's POV all the time and when it was, it was third person -so maybe one reason I preferred it) - why bother with such detail and intricacy and development when she ultimately dies? What was the point of it? Why make it first person? A lot of people were able to guess the ending by the addition of Four's POV and seeing the interview with VR. But that was the whole thing - even people who believed she may die (and didn't want her to) would pick up the book just for the ending, with the last shred of hope that maybe she wouldn't. Marketing that gets people to buy books they know they probably won't enjoy. I bought this book after having been spoiled because I just had the NEED to read it and review it.

Some other problems: the convenient "memory serum" - ooh let's fix these problems without really having to do anything. Peter got to have a nice new beginning, without actually having to do any work. All those guilty people in the Bureau? Yeah, just sort them out with memory serum. That way no-one has to go through anymore nasty punishments that involve a lot of hard work and effort, yay! -_- Did no-one who actually deserved good things to happen actually have good things happen to them?

Overall, I actually kind of hated this book, it has pretty much ruined the entire series for me and I will always feel a bit guilty for inflicting such pain on other people I've recommended this series to. I feel like now that this has happened, I can't even quote this series anymore or remember the parts I liked. If to "be brave" means to preach endlessly and kill off a character unnecessarily to ram the point home, then I won't be saying it anymore. As I said on Twitter, the ending felt like a stupid choice based on poor judgement and the desperate desire to make things "meaningful", and the rest of the book was just nowhere near as entertaining as the previous ones. Sometimes, trying so hard not to be like other books doesn't make your book good, it just make it really obvious that it's trying so hard. An overdone ending is still better than a terribly thought out "shocking" ending  - though somewhere in the middle would be best. Buuut what does it matter, the money is made, movie is the works and that's that, so. I've never believed in pandering to your audience, but to completely disregard how a lot of them would feel after investing so much in this series just so you can feel superior for doing things "differently" is just as bad.

And if anyone wants to give me my money back and pay for years of therapy, that would be great.

(NB: no offence to Veronica Roth. I'm sure you are a nice lady. I just really, really disagree with you.)

3 comments:

  1. Aw, sorry to hear you didn’t like this book. I mean, all I can say is . . . people are going to either love or hate this book (obviously) though I'm surprised by how many people have been hating on the author lately . . . guess her huge fan-base is still not totally happy with her right now but it’s her book and if that’s the only way she saw how to end it in that particular way . . . well that’s fine by me hehe.

    Anyway, like you, I thought this book wasn't the best out of all three books, but in regards to the ending I was not all that surprised by it. It was perhaps a little unnecessary when you first read that particular chapter and learn what happens to our heroine, but after thinking back on it for a few moments later . . . I actually liked the ending. Oddly. I mean, I think I liked the ending mostly because it was different compared to most book endings and I like that the author took a great risk with her final book and with how she ended it.

    But out of everything, the only two things I didn’t really like was Tobias’s POV (which made me not like him as much as I used to) and that epilogue (which kind of didn't make sense to me really because it was still depressing) but overall I liked the book though I can’t say the same for the rest of the readers. Figures. Hehe. Anyway, great review! Gotta love the long, ranty ones! :)

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  2. Ooooh, sorry about your disappointment, Liz! This one definitely seems to be bringing on some very strong opinions in fans of the series!

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  3. I agree with so much of what you said Liz! Totally agree that this book has affected my love for the entire series. This has to be the most disappointing ending to a series that I have ever read.

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